Direct liability is a legal obligation which results from someone's personal actions. In an example, someone who breaks a window is directly liable for the breakage of the window and can be obliged to pay for a replacement. This is in contrast with indirect liability, in which someone is liable for damages incurred by the behavior of someone else, as when a hospital agrees to pay damages to a patient injured by a doctor. Determining what form liability takes can be an important aspect of legal cases involving liability.
Activities which can lead to direct liability include acts of negligence as well as omission, ranging from failing to maintain safety equipment appropriately to neglecting to provide people with information they would need to avoid injury. People can be held liable for bodily injury, in which someone is physically harmed, as well as financial damages, psychological damages, and damages to property. In all cases, direct liability implies that the person potentially obligated to pay damages is directly responsible for the injury.
When someone is directly responsible for damages, he or she can be taken to court by the person who sustained the injury. The court may confirm the direct liability and award damages which must be paid to the person who was injured as compensation. This can include damages to pay for expenses incurred as a result of the injury as well as compensatory damages, as when a company is ordered to pay because someone experience humiliation as a result of its actions.
There may be cases in which people are asked to sign paperwork which waives liability, usually in situations where people are engaging in dangerous activities with full knowledge that the activity is dangerous. However, direct liability can still arise in such situations. For example, if safety equipment is not maintained properly and someone is injured, this goes beyond the reasonable risks people were made aware of on a waiver. Likewise, if someone fails to disclose the risks associated with an activity and someone experiences an injury, the liability waiver may be overridden in court.
Issues of liability can become quite complicated. Employers in particular are often concerned with liability, because the law may hold employers responsible for the actions of their employees. Medical malpractice is an area in which disputes about liability may arise, as hospitals want to avoid making payouts on behalf of negligent employees. Liability can also come into dispute in other business settings.